This post is being composed on January 18, the Sunday after PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER finally went on sale. To our absolute delight the New York Times Bestseller list placed THUNDER at number 35 after only four days on sale! We’ve never had a hardback place this quickly. We can’t thank each and every one of you who bought the book in person, so we’ll do it right here where the whole world can read it: Thank you all!
Hopefully THUNDER has been worth the wait. So far the critics all seem to enjoy it, and several have called PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER the best story we’ve written in years–it’s as if they’ve forgotten that THUNDER’s the sequel to PEOPLE OF THE WEEPING EYE. Many of you know that we worked, sweated, and labored on this story for years. When the good folks at Forge told us they’d have to break the story into two parts, we were heartsick. No other work in the PEOPLE series had a first and second half. And then they changed the cover concept. After all the waiting, all the worrying, you can imagine the feeling of relief to hear that our readers got it, that they were willing to wait, and that the conclusion was all they had hoped for.
Sometimes it’s really stressful to be an author. Yeah, yeah, we’re supposed to just hang around and think weighty thoughts, be profound, and kind of flakey and dissassociated with reality, right? Well, okay, we do pretty well with the flakey part, but beyond that, each novel is like a roll of the dice. And no matter what we’ve written, or how well we’ve written it, each book must sink or swim subject to the winds, currents, and eddies of the publishing industry, national economy, retailers, distributors, peculiarities in the art department, and how the reps are feeling that month. One of the largest paperback lay-downs we ever had was with THE SUMMONING GOD. The lay-down date was September 9, 2001. On September 11, just as the book was reaching its widest distribution, well… You know. 80% of the books were returned and the Anasazi mystery series never really recovered.
With PEOPLE OF THE WEEPING EYE and PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER, we just had the feeling that it would become a classic in the PEOPLE series along with LAKES and SILENCE. I guess now we’re going to see if Old White, Trader, Morning Dew, Smoke Shield and the rest speak as loudly to others as they did to us. And, of course, if you get the opportunity, go and visit the Moundville Archaeological site south of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Hopefilly the characters will make it come alive for you.
Never believe the stuff you hear at writers’ conferences: ”Talent will always win out.” “If you write magically and lyrically, you will eventually be successful.” “If you write a better novel than the next guy, you’re going to sell it.”
The fact is, Fate does play a role. We’ve known some very fine writers who didn’t make it because the publisher put a crummy cover on the novel. Or their first novel was published the same day a major war began. And, just because a novel is great, doesn’t mean the publisher “gets it” either. The evil fact is that even a dynamite novel will not, cannot, break out if the publisher doesn’t manage to ship enough copies to cover the potential market. If a first novel isn’t in a pocket, the consumer can’t pick it up as an impulse read.
So, is there a rule that dictates who will become a successful writer? Yep. It boils down to this: Success is based on 2% talent, and 110% tenacity.
And there, children, you have it all in a thimble.
We have had some questions about the de Soto series. We can actually let the cat out of the bag and announce that Simon & Schuster has bought the first three books of the series, to be called, CONTACT: THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA. We’ll know more after we travel to New York in February for our annual publisher meetings, but it sounds like Book One, will probably be published in spring of 2010. This is really delightful for us since it marks the 20 year anniversary of the publication of PEOPLE OF THE WOLF. Think of it, we’ve been doing the PEOPLE books for 20 years now, and we’re starting our first spin-off series. Tor/Forge will continue to publish our traditional PEOPLE books, with PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE coming out sometime in 2010. We can write about American archaeology for the rest of our lives and never cover it all. The same is true for the CONTACT series. De Soto is just the beginning, and many of the myths about who did what to whom need to be taken head-on and demolished.
At the time of our last blog post the temperature here at the ranch was five below 0; today it’s almost 60 on our porch, and probably in the low 50s in the shade–and it’s January 18! We’re delighted with the weather since we’ll be loading buffalo Tuesday morning at 4:00 am. With the warm weather the road out of the canyon is melted out, and we can drive out with the big trailer. By mid afternoon on the 20th, we should have our animals down to the National Western Stockshow in Denver. This will probably be the last showing of animals by Red Canyon Ranch at the Gold Trophy Show and Sale. We are cutting back on numbers to more of a hobby herd, while our ranch manager, John Gerrells, is leasing the land for his own buffalo operation. Any of you needing buffalo meat, tanned hides, or skulls, should call him at 307-921-1219.
After the show in Denver, we are taking the last of our sale animals to the Dakota Territory Bison Association sale in Rapid City on the 5th thru 7th of February. If you’re looking for Red Canyon bison, that will be your last opportunity. Thereafter, we will only own 6 head: Pia, Nebi, Evening Star, Caffrey, Christal, and Sun Chaser.
This has been a tough decision. We’ve been in the bison industry for sixteen years now, and selling down to six animals has included grieving, sadness, and worry. The good news is that most of the cow herd went to live with Boyd Meyer at Cold Creek Bison just south of Cheyenne. Many of you who have driven between Denver and Cheyenne have seen his bison just behind the Terry Ranch off I-25. Boyd is one of the those bright lights in the buffalo community, and he’s given Red Canyon animals a great home in the past. The last time we sold him cows, he brought their calves to the Rocky Mountain Buffalo Association’s Peak to Peak sale and thrashed us at the winner’s podium.
In our next blog we’ll let you know how we did in both Denver and Rapid City. In the meantime, thanks for your support and helping to make PEOPLE OF THE THUNDER a success. We hope that you enjoy the way the story is concluded and how Morning Dew managed to outwit friend and foe alike. Oh, and should you ever go to Moundville and look down over the river, don’t forget to take a little piece of copper with you!